The Greatest Story Ever Told

As we approach Easter holidays, I think it to be appropriate for us to take a moment and meditate on the significance of what these holy days represent. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday and right through to Easter Sunday, Christianity would have NO credibility if it was not for the impact of these days on the history of mankind.

In short, Jesus died on the cross (Good Friday) for the sins of all humans, and after defeating Satan and death, he rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. Without his RESURRECTION, his claims of divinity and salvation would not be credible.  Paul told the church at Corinth, “…if Christ wasn’t raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is your faith.” (I Corinthians 15:14 CEV)

The cross and the resurrection give us the Greatest Story Ever Told as summarised in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (MKJV)

If we BELIEVE the claims of Jesus, and ACCEPT God’s gift to us (John 1:12, 13; Ephesians 2), the Bible promises that we will receive eternal life, and not be forever damned to Hell, separated from God. So the question that confronts us is, “HOW WILL I RESPOND TO THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD?” According to Scripture, my response will determine my eternal destiny. Therefore, this is no trivial or laughing matter.

Let us pray:

Our Heavenly Father

Thank You for sending Your Son

To live, to die and rise again

For the sake of Your glory

For the sake of us sinners

 

We do not deserve an ounce of Your mercy

Yet You poured bucket-loads on us

We stand in gratitude today

For the costly price You paid

Your BLOOD wash my sin away!!!

Vocab Rehab

Have you ever pondered about the vocabulary followers of Christ seem to use. Below is a list of vocab that you might have heard, and possible responses that might have entered your mind.

  • ‘Born-again’

“…my poor mother; I currently weigh 80kg…”

  • ‘Saved’

“…from what must I be saved? I’m not in any pool at the moment…”

  • ‘Redeemed ‘

“…I haven’t won the lottery lately…”

Okay, I know my humour is a bit dry, but you get the idea. We can also add words like ‘believer’, ‘disciple’, ‘Christian’, ‘child of God’, ‘saint’, etc. All these words have different meanings, but in the broadest sense, they point to a spiritual metamorphosis. The Christian believes this transformation is something God initiates, and we willingly participate in it.

For the outsider, these terms may seem archaic, old-fashioned or too religious. Yet just as a medical student immerses herself in the terminology of medicine, otherwise she would not be able to mature as a doctor, so also does the believer immerse himself in the vocabulary of the Bible.

In order for him to grow as a saint, he must understand the language of the Bible, which was written about 2000-3000 years ago. But this understanding is not just on the natural plain! We need super-natural help to UNDERSTAND this ancient language. It is a vocabulary to be SEEN with our hearts, and not just our heads. It is the language we will speak in Heaven. John Newton hit the nail on the head when he sang,

Amazing grace, how sweet the SOUND

that saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found.

Was BLIND but now I SEE

Who opens the eyes of our heart to SEE the reality of God? What enables us to HEAR the sweet sound of God’s grace? Who grants us the understanding to grasp divine concepts? Well, Scripture is quite clear on who gives us spiritual insight. Paul, the apostle, speaks to his protegé, Timothy, and says, “Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all.” (2 Timothy 2:7 GNB) On the one side, he is asking Timothy to use his brain to think hard about the truth-claims of Jesus. And on the other hand, he tells Tim that it is only by a divine act of revelation that we can UNDERSTAND the teachings of Christ.

So the question that begs to be answered is,

“What does God use to OPEN up our spiritual understanding?”

In short, God uses the Gospel to open our blind eyes. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, ‘’Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 MKJV) We cannot SEE (understand, comprehend) the things of God without a supernatural transformation in our hearts.

If God uses the Gospel to give me spiritual understanding, what is the Gospel?

Whole libraries can be filled with literature dedicated to explaining the Gospel. And I would encourage you to make a proper study of it. But see my explanation below as a brief introduction to wet your appetitie for more.

The Five F’s of the Good News

  1. Framed

God framed the universe at Creation. What He made was good (Genesis 1&2). He made humans as His image-bearers, and walked in constant relationship with them.

      2. Fall

Man & woman fell in sin because they disobeyed clear instructions from God. Their fellowship with God was broken because of their rebellion (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23; 6:23).

      3. Forgiveness

Nothing humans try can restore the broken relationship between themselves and God (Romans 3:10-12). But God knew mankind would not be able to save itself, and that is why He sent the only acceptable solution to our greatest problem. God’s solution for our sin was to offer up His Son, the perfect Lamb, in order to wash our guilt away. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive forgiveness for our sins (Isaiah 53; John 1&3; 1 John 1:9).

      4. Faith

I cannot earn God’s forgiveness. No, it is purely a gift (Ephesians 2). All I have to do is to RECEIVE the gift. We receive the gift from God by TRUSTING that He is not trying to fool us, or manipulate us, but that He did what the Bible claims He did. In other words, I must put my FAITH in God in order to receive what God has done for me (John 1:12; Romans 10:8-11).

     5. Future

My future is secure in God! I will spend eternity with God in Heaven, where there will be no tears nor sorrows (Revelations 21). I don’t have to fear death, ‘cause Christ has defeated death (2 Timothy 1:10). I don’t have to fear eternal separation from God, ‘cause Christ has restored our fellowship with God. Jesus clearly said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! Without me, no one can go to the Father.”

So, my question to you is, “HAVE YOU ACCEPTED GOD’S GIFT?”

Let us pray:

Father God, I have sinned against Heaven and earth

I have broken Your holy Law

I have rebelled against Your instructions

I have tried, but I cannot save myself!

 

You know my sinful heart, and still You love me

You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ,

To die for my sins

To wash me white as snow

To restore fellowship with You

 

Please forgive me for my wickedness

Wash  me clean from all guilt

Enable me to live for You

Walk with me from now till eternity

For Your glory and name!

Amen

Please leave a comment if you have more questions about the Good News, and its implications for your life. And we will get back to you.

statues, fears and a christian response

South Africa is currently in the middle of a ‘statue’ crisis. As I perceive it, a portion of our citizens are unhappy with what these statues of past Colonial and Apartheid heroes represent. There are a lot of frustration, fears and anger being voiced in social circles lately. On Thursday, 9 April 2015, the statue of imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes, was removed from the campus of the University of Cape Town. The governing management of UCT decided to remove the statue after weeks of protests and pressure from students on the campus.

The Rhodes debacle triggered a wave of protests around the country – Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Cape Town, etc. Some of these protesters turned to vandalism in defaming monuments of past oppressors. In response to the defamation of statues, some people are also protesting for the preservation of these figures.

With all this going on, I was watching the news the other night, and a remark by one of South Africa’s political leaders struck my heart. He said that the defamation of statues reminded him of similar scenes in Germany in the early 1930s. The Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler tried to remove the Jewish influence on German life by burning all books written by Jews, and about Jews. We all know what happened in the approximately 12 years after that to Jews in Europe under the bloodthirsty Nazis.  When I heard this statement, my heart froze with fear! I thought to myself, “What if this is just the beginning of the extermination of the Afrikaner from South Africa?”

Late into the evening I experienced emotions ranging from anxiety to anger. I suppose a human’s default reaction to the possible threat of your existence is to make a plan – fight or flee.  After some time of contemplating the issues at hand, two thoughts arose in my heart:

  1. What is the Biblical perspective on the unfolding events?
  2. What lies at the root of these protests in the hearts of men?

Both of these questions do not have a singular answer, and I certainly will not try to answer these questions holistically. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will awaken our hearts to compassion for the people in this situation. In a sense, I’m inviting you on this journey of discovering the heart of God for the people of South Africa. In these past weeks, I’ve come to realise that my heart is far from where God’s heart is at; my thoughts concerning the crisis is certainly not filled with divine revelation, but instead, self-preservation (Isaiah 55:8, 9). It is our usual manner as humans to put our own survival as first priority, yet that is contrary to what Jesus exemplified. He said,

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24 ESV)

How is our response different to that of the world? Do we run to our corner in fear, or attack the other party in anger and self-justification? Or is there maybe another way, a Christ-honouring way? While the anger started to bubble up from within, I ran through every argument in my head, trying to prove my point of view as the just one. In the midst of this mental conflict, a scripture came to mind,

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (1 Peter 3:9 NLT)

God knows where retaliation will take mankind. It will just perpetuate the cycle of hatred and revenge. I am just scratching the surface of God’s perspective in the Scriptures on what is happening. Just by simply seeing the unfolding events through the eyes of eternal truths found in the Bible, I can allow God to change my hardened heart. If God can change my heart, He can then start to use me as an agent of change for His Kingdom of love. As a representative of God’s Heavenly Kingdom on earth, the Bible is my ambassadorial directives from the celestial capital. If we’re not immersed in what God’s Word is saying, we will fail miserably in representing Christ on earth (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

So firstly, I am committing myself to study the Holy Scriptures in order to see and hear God’s heart for our current situation in South Africa. More than that, I want to learn how to share the Good News of Reconciliation with my fellow Africans.

And this brings me to the second question: I do not really know why many South Africans (and especially black Africans) feel aggrieved at the legacy of Apartheid and Colonialism. I know some facts about the injustices committed in the past by the oppressors. But what I’m talking about is not the historic facts; I’m talking about the knowing of the heart. To be honest, there is not a natural empathy in my heart for what the previously disenfranchised suffered. I know what the Apartheid government did was wrong, but it is just an intellectual consent, not a visceral reality.

In order for me to ‘feel for’ the statue protesters, I first need to ‘feel with’ them. In other words, I will not feel compassion for the disenfranchised, if I don’t see and hear and taste and smell and feel what they’ve gone through, and what they are currently going through. Therefore, I have committed myself to read (in their own words) what they have gone through in the past under the hands of the oppressors. I am also trusting God to grant me the boldness to engage my fellow brothers and sisters in hearing their stories. What are their challenges? What are their frustrations? Where are they headed with their lives? And where can I ask forgiveness for what I and my forefathers did that dishonoured their humanity? What role can I play in the redeeming process of broken lives and systems?

My hope is that if God can change me, then maybe I can make a constructive contribution to making South Africa a God-honouring country. My aim is to start where I am with what I’ve got. My prayer is that you will join me in this journey of discovering God’s heart for South Africa and its people, and also how we can display His heart to a people in desperate need.

Jazz it up!!!

I find myself caught in the constant tension between God’s symphonic dream for planet Earth and my own selfish cacophony.  From the first time we hear heaven’s sound, we know in our innermost being, that we are called to be part of Heaven’s symphony.  We are destined to play a part.  We are endowed with the privilege of continuing Christ’s mission on the earth – mending broken hearts, liberating prisoners, feeding the hungry, accepting the rejected, caring for the fatherless, loving the unlovely, including the marginalized, embracing the foreigner, healing the sick, associating with the social outcast.

Some art forms are an acquired taste.  Take jazz music for instance.  Not knowing the  basic historic rudiments, techniques or nuances of jazz, I suspect I don’t fully appreciate the genre.  When it comes to jazz, I plead 98% ignorance. The one jazz riff I learnt from my guitar tutor had my fingers entangled and my image bruised.  Needless to say, that is where my experiential language of jazz ends.  In order for me to understand and appreciate jazz more, I’ll have to dust off my guitar and go for some jazz lessons.

It is a style of music that’s not typically a one-hit wonder, but takes time to grow on you.  The more I hear it, the more it becomes part of me and I become part of it.  The tunes grip your soul and the rhythms arrest your heart.  Before long, you are tapping the beat, whistling the tune, humming the melody, singing the song and living the lyrics.  The music becomes you.

This is the same with God’s symphony; it has a tendency to grow on you.  And before you realize it, His symphonic masterpiece has become the melody you sing.  Yes, your life starts to resonate with the sound from heaven.  Your way of living starts to reflect God’s heart and thoughts.  To be frank, the priorities of God become your to-do-list.

On the other side of the tension is my selfish cacophony.  A cacophony is a big noise of inharmonious clatter.  The problem here is that you, I and the whole human race are born into this selfish cacophony.  The Biblical term for this cacophony is sin.  Sin implies that a person has missed the target God set out for him or her to hit.  We’ve missed the life God intended for us to live.  We’ve fallen short of the glorious symphony the Conductor has envisioned for us to be part of.  We are so out of tune that only the Original Designer could have stepped in to rescue. And He did!  Paul echoes this predicament we find ourselves in, in his letter to the church in Rome (at that time it was the capital of the Roman Empire; synonymous with affluence, intellectual power and perceived perfection).  “We’re all the same.  No one’s innocent.  We’ve all messed up and dropped well short of God’s target for us.” (Romans 3:23)

We’ve all messed up and dropped well short.  That’s our problem – God knows it and I believe we know it as well.  And that’s where God’s marvelous newsbreak is like fresh water to our souls. The news that our mess-up is irreparable, but His cure is immaculate.  The consequences of our choices deserve judgement, yet the storehouse of His grace is immeasurable. This is the mystery of the gospel – the ‘wowness’ of what God did for us will never be fully grasped.  And to top that, God invites us to share this Good News with those who are most undeserving (like we were and still are).